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  Heart Disease - Not somebody else's business

Risks for heart & blood vessel disease

Around 60% of all men and about 45% of all women are overweight or obese. According to the Heart Foundation 1/3 to 1/2 of Australians between 20 and 69 years have higher than recommended blood cholesterol levels. And it is shown in the number of early deaths. In 1996 just over 10,000 people under the age of 70 died of heart and blood vessel disease.

A key to a healthy heart and circulation is a balanced eating plan and lifestyle. If you have a balanced eating plan it can help you control three of the modifiable risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease  blood cholesterol levels, obesity and blood pressure. Physical activity and not smoking are also very important to help reduce your risk.

A balanced eating plan is one high in carbohydrate from grains, fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Variety and fiber rich foods are also important. The Heart Foundation recommends all adults need to eat 30 grams of fibre each day. In its booklet "Healthy Eating for the Heart" the Foundation says when decreasing saturated fat intake you should look to replace saturated fat with carbohydrates and fibre rich foods: whole grain breakfast cereals, oats, porridge, whole grain bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, barley, fruits and vegetables as well as legurnes like kidney, beans, baked beans and lentils.

Its worth knowing that the average Australian male eats 26g of fibre per day and the average Australian female eats 20g per day. So we are not far off. We just need a little more fibre each day.

Why? Couple of pieces of research. In 1996 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study from Harvard School of Public Health which has examined more than 40,000 male health professional over a period of six years. They found that men who ate plenty of fibre had almost half as many heart attacks as men who ate little fibre. The study concluded that "fibre ... is an important dietary component for the prevention of coronary heart disease."

Fibre is an important dietary component

Most foods in fibre contain both soluble and insoluble fibre, which provide different benefits. Soluble fibre is proven component in helping to lower blood cholesterol. Sources of soluble fibre include grains like oats and barley, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Only last year, the Journal of Nutrition published an analysis of the 12 most important studies on psyllium (a grain high in soluble fibre). The article concluded that people with blood cholesterol problems who ate a psyllium  rich cereal meal each day managed to lower their levels of blood cholesterol by 5% and their levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol) by 9%. Lowering blood cholesterol is vital to our nation. According to the Heart Foundation, 20% of people aged 20  24 have blood cholesterol levels above the recommended maximum of 5.5 mmol/l. This portion rises as we age to 30% in people aged 25  29 to more than 60% of us aged over 60.

All these heart health benefits are also helped along by the traditional fibre that we used to call roughage. Insoluble fibre is found in grains like wheat bran, fruits and vegetable like corn. These foods tend to be more filling, delaying hunger and displacing fat from the diet. With obesity playing a major role in heart and blood vessel disease eating foods rich in insoluble fibre is an easy step to help you stay in shape not to mention better regularity.

Why eat more fibre?

Eating more fibre rich foods each day will help us all manage our weight, reduce or maintain our blood cholesterol levels and, as the research shows, reduce our risk of heart and blood vessel disease. But remember regular physical activity and not smoking are important to help reduce your risk as well.

Source: Kellog's Facts for Life & Heart Foundation of Australia